The Shasta Mayflies were founded 10 years ago by former fishing guide Rachael Andras in response to her encounters with women who needed help with all things fly fishing. Begun with only a dozen members, the club now numbers almost 100 fly fishers—novice to expert—from throughout Northern California and Southern Oregon.
Mayflies Vice President Linda Slater says many women feel more comfortable fishing with other women because they tend to share information. While the club is largely female oriented, many of its members have husbands or other family members who fly fish, and Slater says their participation is welcome. “We’re here to promote fly fishing, conservation and friendship for everyone,” she says. “And food! We love to cook.”
The Shasta Mayflies fish streams, still-water lakes and alpine lakes as well as private waters. The mandatory fees collected from the latter support the club’s charitable involvements. Favorite destinations include the Trinity River in April and Hat Creek in May, but Slater says, “We will go anyplace we can find a fish mistress. “
The club’s monthly meeting features programs on casting and fly tying, as well as presentations by guides on the best places to fish. Usually the Saturday following the monthly meeting, the group organizes an outing either in Northern California or Southern Oregon.
While fishing is recreational for the Mayflies, it’s also a means to help others. “Our passion beyond fly fishing is really women and children,” says longtime member Marsha Caranci, who also chairs the FishCamp Scholarship Committee. Annually, the club awards $750 scholarships for the best essays written by kids age 10-15 on why they want to go to Fish Camp and learn to fly fish. Funded in collaboration with the Shasta Trinity Fly Fishers, the award covers the costs of the Redding Fly Shop’s summer camp at Antelope Creek Ranch in Siskiyou County.
The five-day program includes instruction in casting, fly tying, basic entomology, safe wading and a leave-no-trace conservation philosophy. Last year, the fund awarded six scholarships and Caranci says, “They come back to our meetings after camp and tell us about their experience. Our goal is to get at least two kids a year involved in fly fishing.”
The Mayflies also participate in Casting For Recovery, which provides fly-fishing retreats for women who have (or have had) breast cancer. The club supports the program through contributions of time and money, and encourages members to volunteer at the annual on-stream events held in Mount Shasta and Fall River Mills.
After being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004, Mayflies Board Member Cris Hartman attended the no-cost, three-day Casting For Recovery program at Clearwater Lodge in Fall River Mills. It was there that she learned about the Shasta Mayflies from a volunteer.
Hartman says, “I had fished all my life, but I had never fly fished. (At the lodge) you learn the techniques, what kinds of flies to use and about the real insects that fish eat. They have you practice and then you get out on the water on the last day.”
The program is open to women in all stages of breast cancer recovery. Hartman says that in her group, “There were women who still had drains in, who were still going through chemo. There was a guide for each woman. For those who couldn’t stand, they were given chairs to sit.” She says it was a bonding experience with other women sharing the same struggle. It was also an opportunity to learn about fly fishing while reconditioning muscles that had been lost through cancer treatment.
Although the club is passionate about its good works, it’s the fishing that brings them together. “Placing that fly on the water and watching a fish come up and take it, the ambience of that is wonderful,” says Slater. Hartman, who says she found a new hobby as the result of her Casting For Recovery experience, adds, “I would encourage anyone who has an interest in fly fishing to attend a meeting or two and to go on one of the outings.” •
Fly Fishing ABCs (A Basic Course) Shasta Mayflies Hands-On Workshop Saturday, March 19 10 am – 3 pm Good Times Pizza & Things 22049 Old 44 Drive, Palo Cedro
Pre-register by sending an email with ABCs in the subject line to Mayflies@shastamayflies.org Admission is $10. Pizza will be provided. Limited to 20 adults